10 May 2007

Morris is less

"No one could doubt the sincerity of Mark Morris' admiration for the late mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, who was to have collaborated with him on the Metropolitan Opera's new staging of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice. However, the opening night performance of this production (May 2) did not convince me that the choreographer can channel this sincerity into meaningful stage direction." JJ's take is in Gay City News.

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02 May 2007

News from the underworld

A Happy Shade whispers to La Cieca about the Met's Orfeo (opening tonight):
"This show is awesome. The dancing is really interesting and fits the music very well. Donald Palumbo has really worked tirelessly to make the chorus sound as good as possible, giving notes and comments all through rehearsals. I’m told from long-time members that note sessions during dress rehearsals were quite rare. David Daniels is great in this part, and he sings it so well. Maija Kovalevska is a hottie, and has a beautiful voice. She is tall and striking and pairs physically very well with David. And Heidi Grant Murphy has perhaps the entrance of the season. I won’t give it away, but your jaw will drop. Mine did .... Bring your spyglasses to try and figure out as many of the 'dead characters' in the chorus as you can!"

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01 May 2007

Sweet and low

Gender-bending diseuse Zarah Leander crosses over into opera to sing "Che farò senza Euridice" in this scene the 1938 film Heimat.

It may be noted that the sub-contralto Leander chooses a lower key for this aria than the written C major David Daniels will sing tomorrow night! For more about the iconic Zarah, see Ben Letzler's appreciation of the androgyne goddess.

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26 April 2007

Length matters

"The Met's lavish new production of Giacomo Puccini's operatic trilogy Il trittico (heard April 20) was almost as enjoyable as it was long." Our editor JJ's somewhat contrarian position may be read in Gay City News.

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12 April 2007

The gala continues

In further celebration of our 200th podcast, La Cieca presents a second program of superstars and their superstardom. Featured in the current episode of Unnatural Acts of Opera are Karita Mattila, Rolando Villazon, Renee Fleming, Dorothy Kirsten, Renata Scotto, Elena Obratszova, David Daniels, Ruth Ann Swenson, Renata Tebaldi, Giuseppe diStefano, Marilyn Horne, Montserrat Caballe, Kostas Paskalis, Alain Vanzo, Krassimira Stoyanova, Marcello Giordani and Aprile Millo.

And don't forget Part One, starring Maria Callas, Cesare Valletti, Rosanna Carteri, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Tito Gobbi, Birgit Nilsson, Leonie Rysanek, Alfredo Kraus, Jeannette Pilou, Cesare Siepi, Jessye Norman, Joan Sutherland and Leontyne Price.

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05 April 2007

Ruth's no stranger to friction

DRAMA on the front page of today's NYT Arts section! Ruth Ann Swenson comes out swinging at the Met for "snubbing" her in favor of younger and less zaftig artists. Her current run of Cleopatras in Giulio Cesare is her final contact with the Met*, apparently the end to a 20-season career there spanning over 225 performances.

And now La Cieca is going to throw this one open to discussion from the floor!

CORRECTION: Swenson is also contracted to sing Violetta during the Met's 2007-2008 season.

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10 September 2006

Nackt und Träume

La Cieca is always quick to encourage the clever use of Photoshop, especially when it involves her two favorite subjects, i.e., opera and naked guys. That's why she strongly recommends a look at the site called Bare Naked Men, where the Vancouver-based "Michael" digitally strips such hunks as William Burden, Nathan Gunn, Simon Keenlyside, David Daniels and Erwin Schrott. (Warning: on the Bare Naked Site, the naughty bits are not digitized, as La Cieca has done on this photo of Mr. Burden. So proceed with caution if you're at work!)

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18 July 2006

Breaking: David Daniels is the Met's Orfeo

The mystery is solved, and, as usual, La Cieca predicted it well ahead of the official announcement. Per the Met's website, David Daniels will sing the four performances of the new Orfeo ed Euridice production in May 2007.

David joins a distinguished group of artists who have interpreted the role of Orfeo at the Met, including Louise Homer, Kerstin Thorborg, Risë Stevens, Grace Bumbry and Marilyn Horne. The revival of Orfeo will mark the Met's first performances of the opera since 1972.

The Met's website notes that the production is dedicated to the memory of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson.

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16 July 2006

The people have spoken!

Here are the results of La Cieca's informal and utterly unscientific poll of her readers, asking "Who should replace Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in the Met's production of Orfeo?" As you can see, a large plurality favored Ewa Podles, with David Daniels and Susan Graham also receiving numerous votes.


07 July 2006

Che faremo?

Due to server snafu, La Cieca has had to repost the "Che Faremo" poll. Please feel free to vote again (or for the first time!)

Who should replace Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in the Met's production of Orfeo?
Alice Coote
David Daniels
Susan Graham
Bejun Mehta
Ewa Podles
Dolora Zajick
Nessuno -- cancel the production!


03 May 2006

Sento, ah, more!

Posted, by some odd coincidence, to a David Daniels discussion board:

"Remember, a Baroque opera has the same structure as a hard-core porn film: several minutes of boring dialogue/recitative, and then ten-minute sessions/arias where the stars show off their assets and climax in a spectacular 'cadenza'."


08 February 2006

Starry night

Alas, La Cieca can't comment regarding onstage goings on at last night's Traviata at the Met (her evil twin JJ is writing about the event for Gay City News), but things were pretty gala in the auditorium as well. Representing the Blogosphere was one of the Wellsungs, Jonathan Ferrantelli, a deux with the always charming Greg Freed. Down on orchestra level, La Cieca noted Anna Netrebko deep in conversation with scribe Matthew Gurewitsch. (La Netrebko, it is rumored, will be singing her own Violetta in New York a few seasons hence, though not, perhaps, in the Franco Zeffirelli staging she saw last night. On dit that Peter Gelb plans to import the Willy Decker production from Salzburg.) Aprile Millo, swathed in mink, held court at the base of the pole that bears her name. Noted in her orbit were ten-percenter Neil Funkhouser, NYCO tenor Andrew Drost and Premiere Opera's Ed Rosen. And everywhere La Cieca looked, boys, boys, boys, on a cuteness level to rival that of a David Daniels audience. Were they there for Angela Gheorghiu in the title role, or, could scrummy tenor Jonas Kaufmann (left) have something to do with it?

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07 December 2005

The answered questions

(1) Alessandra Marc is the soprano who was inspired by Leontyne Price's "Zweite Brautnacht." (2) David Daniels' favorite soap is "The Guiding Light." (3) Evelyn Lear sang "The Boy from Ipanema."


05 December 2005

"Unnatural Acts" Gala: Divas! Prizes! Filth!

Be sure to check back here on parterre.com at noon (17:00 GMT) tomorrow for the First Unnatural Acts of Opera Gala and Quiz, featuring performances by Leontyne Price, Placido Domingo, Beverly Sills, Simon Keenlyside, David Daniels, Regine Crespin, Piero Cappuccilli, Regina Resnik, Diana Soviero and Eleanor Steber. (There will be some filth as well, but you'll have to listen to the show to find out who the perpetrator is.) The quiz will consist of three opera-related questions; the first email received will win a pair of tickets to the English National Opera's Billy Budd; three runners-up will receive historical opera DVDs. You can listen to the show directly through a link on this page beginning at noon, or you can download the show through Itunes. Until noon, then!

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19 June 2005

Femmes Fatales

Debuting today on Il Gran Teatro della Cieca, "Femmes Fatales," a program featuring deadly divas. Featured are complete and demented performances of L'incoronazione di Poppea, Macbeth, Samson et Dalila, Jenufa and Turandot.

The lethal lovelies in question are Anna Caterina Antonacci, Shirley Verrett, Oralia Dominguez, Anja Silja and Montserrat Caballe; victims and co-conspirators include David Daniels, Kurt Moll, Piero Cappuccilli, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Jon Vickers, Ernest Blanc, Karita Mattila, Jerry Hadley, Luciano Pavarotti, Leona Mitchell and Giorgio Tozzi.

Il Gran Teatro della Cieca

The very quick turnaround on this show can be credited to two amazing pieces of shareware, MP3 Surgeon (for direct editing of MP3s without decoding to wav, and, consequently, no degradation of sound through re-encoding) and Audiograbber, the fastest ripper La Cieca has ever seen, and, girls, would you believe it's free?

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25 May 2005

"Sorry, ah thought you said Maria CALLAS"

All right, boys, get your bold-faced fonts out. It seems that at Oprah Winfrey's "Legends Ball," none other than Leontyne Price asked specially to meet fellow guest/legend Mariah Carey. La Carey (who admits that at first she thought the diva mistook her for someone else) reports that Lee chatted with her about her music and her recent video. Who knew? The pop star (or, La Cieca guesses, her publicist) then gushed ". . . this is a woman who has made history and paved the way for just everybody." (Next, I suppose, we'll hear that Tom Cruise wants to meet David Daniels.) And, you know, it's not like Lee and Mariah were short of someone to talk to; Oprah's guest list also included Maya Angelou, Ruby Dee, Roberta Flack, Coretta Scott King, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Della Reese, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Cicely Tyson, Halle Berry and Nancy Wilson. Anyway, here's the story: MARIAH THRILLED THAT OPERA DIVA PRICE KNOWS WHO SHE IS.

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20 May 2005

Yes, it is good to be back

You could say last night at the Met was a typical Aprile Millo performance, if that expression were not essentially an oxymoron. "Typical" and "Millo" really don't intersect in this dimension (maybe somewhere on a spiritual plane? But I digress.) Let's just say that, what happens at a Millo night, happened last night, which is to say:

People you never see at the opera were there. Like me, for example, and I actually went through the whole ritual of buying a single out in the plaza ten minutes before eight. But everybody was there, definitely a gathering-of-the clan sort of event. The fussy queens were there; I'm pretty sure I recognized at least one recent facelift. And the cute queens were there, the same ones who generally show up only for David Daniels. And, oh yes, the industry queens were there too. This was definitely the night to catch up on all the gossip, such as which manager had just thrown a hissy fit over which tenor's tardiness, yelping, "That's why I hate to work with Italian singers!"

The prima donna's entrance cued the audience not only to polite applause but shouts of "brava," and, mind you, before a note was sung. The entrance ovation went on long enough to drown the first "Perche chiuso," and when's the last time that happened? Caballe?

She wore her own dresses, or at least not the dresses that come with the production. For the record, the Act 1 frock was a throwback to the more formal pre-1964 mode, a maroon faille pelisse over rose georgette, though with mini-mantilla instead of the big Hello Dolly hat.

Instead of the Zeffirelli fire-engine red peau de soie for Act 2, Millo opted for a deep garnet silk velvet cut on Empire lines but resolutely unfrilly, practically severe by Tosca standards. Her garniture of diamonds included a tall diadem, and she accessoried with a plain gold silk damask stole and the traditional 16-button white gloves. (These were perhaps a half-size too snug and Millo flutzed a bit getting them stripped off, but she gestured with them effectively later on.)

Millo's acting is a lot more sober these days too; less fluttering in Act 1 and all night long I don't think I saw her beat her breast even once. She's plump, to be sure, but she moves with purpose and a kind of stately quality that looks appropriate on the massively oversized sets. Even when the plastique turns baroque, she believes what she's doing, and after all, Tosca isn't supposed to be a simple village maiden, is she? And if anybody can get away with moaning "mea culpa, mea culpa..." during the candle business, it has to be Millo.

It's always been a glamorous voice. These days the vibrato is looser, particularly in middle voice. I heard one or two queens use the "W" word, but I don''t think I'd go that far. What matters to me is the easy legato and natural sense of how to make the music "go," and for those qualities, Millo is unmatchable among sopranos singing Tosca today. For the record, the climactic notes of "Vissi d'arte" were frankly flat, but the money notes elsewhere, including the several high C's, hit the bullseye.

There was a lot of buzz out front about a cold, and Millo very noticeably waved a handkerchief about during Act 1, even interpolating a couple of coughs that suggested Tosca might be following in poor dear Mimi's footsteps. Then there was a really long wait for Act 2 to start once the audience was in the house, and you know La Cieca was very much dreading that the lights would come up before the curtain for an announcement. But Millo neither canceled nor asked indulgence, and I for one would never have guessed she was anywhere close to under the weather: she sounded just fine.

We all know that Millo likes to take slow phrases very slowly, sometimes to the point that she has to sneak in an additional breath. And so the last thing she needs is a a tentative and passive conductor like Derrick Inouye, who allowed the performance to stagnate like a bad Pelleas. Actually is was worse than that. Imagine Pelleas actually conducting a performance; that's how aimless and inert this show sounded. This guy makes Nello Santi seem positively perky. Let's hope he gets his act together or at least asserts himself a bit before the park performances begin.

You know, it's amazing how incredible Marcello Giordani can sound when he's given a real role to sing instead of all that Pirata/Benvenuto Cellini freaky repertoire. The nerves or allergies or whatever it was that made the Pirata so erratic (though always thrilling!) have been worked out; he's singing like a god these days. The easiest, most brilliant high B on "la vita mi costasse" La Cieca has ever heard; I was honestly surprised that there was no burst of applause after the "Vittoria" in Act 2. (But, then, nobody applauds much of anything any more, not even when Butterfly sees the ship.)

Now, what I just don't get is why the Met falls all over itself finding opportunities for Salvatore Licitra who thus far in New York has given approximately one really good performance (Forza with Collegiate Chorale), but, until now, anyway, keeps Giordani in the High D Ghetto. How about Faust, at least? Or Lucia, even? Or Werther? (We do get both Ernani and Manon Lescaut in 07-08, so that's certainly heading in the right direction. Met, you go on like this.)

Full disclosure here: La Cieca had to leave after the second act, and now she could kick herself for missing what was described as the house coming down after "E lucevan le stelle." But, as she was saying before, at least she's found the will to go back to the opera house; performers like Millo and Giordani are what make it "worth for."

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